Charlie Schlenker

News Director

GLT News Director Charlie Schlenker grew up in Rock Island, Illinois and graduated from Augustana College. He has spent more than three decades in radio and has won numerous state and national awards for journalism. He lives in Normal with his family.

G-Jun Yam / The Associated Press

Unit 5 schools in Bloomington-Normal would only be able to stay open around 70 days—maybe less—if lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner can’t reach an agreement on school funding.

WGLT

The final draft of a police citizen review board may leave advocates on both sides of the issue feeling like they have lost something.

Advocate BroMenn Medical Center / Advocate Healthcare

Nine months ago an exciting event took place that made thousands of people wildly exuberant and happily exhausted. Oh, and the Chicago Cubs won the World Series too. And now, it's a Cubs baby boomlet.

Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

A task force looking for ways to reinvigorate downtown Bloomington is circling a bold idea—closing off a portion of Main Street and making it for pedestrians only.

Staff / WGLT

Some members of Bloomington's Downtown Task Force expressed support Tuesday for installing new parking meters in the central business district, as the committee worked to prioritize suggestions for downtown improvements.

Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy said Bloomington and Normal are the only major cities in Illinois he has seen that do not have parking meters.

pixabay.com

A pizza place, one American/Chinese/Filipino place, and a barbecue place. Those are among the establishments changing on the Bloomington-Normal restaurant scene.

Photos: Demolition Begins at ISSCS Administration Building

Jul 18, 2017
Ruthie Cobb

A crew from Stark Excavating has begun tearing down the Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Children's School Administration Building.

Above is a slideshow of photos from the progress of the demolition. The photos were taken from the north end of the structure.

Artist Nick Africano became involved in the property in 1986. Thirty years later, Africano said he believes the teardown will improve the neighborhood and property values.

Normal Council Approves Insurance Changes

Jul 18, 2017
Staff / WGLT

The Normal Town Council has approved a new insurance package for workers.

The plan approved Monday will remove a $50 deductible and increase benefits. Deputy City Manager Pam Reece said it will encourage employees to participate in the town wellness program. 

"We just don't want employees to become complacent. So it made sense to us to bump up the wellness incentive. Really, if you look at it, it applies as a penalty. Because, if you don't participate, then you pay more towards your insurance," said Reece.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

Online grocery deliveries are a booming industry in the U.S. and now in central Illinois.

Grocery stores have offered online shopping and delivery services for years now. But recently separate companies have begun offering the same service using the stores.

Staff / WGLT

Unit 5 officials say they will not re-district Bloomington-Normal school boundaries this fall as planned. 

Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel said a new demographic study shows only hot spots of enrollment growth and otherwise a slow decline in the number of students in the next decade.

Dontae Latson of the YWCA
Colleen Reynolds / WGLT

The YWCA McLean County has cut a second program due to the state’s rocky finances, this time forcing around 185 low-income, older adults to switch to a new home-care service provider.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

Another special meeting Monday on a proposed Bloomington police citizen review board drew more than 100 people who gave, at times, heated input to aldermen.

Five Bloomington City Council members delayed a scheduled vote on Monday to hear more from Police Chief Brendan Heffner.

Staff / WGLT

After a fierce battle over bicycle lanes for Washington Street, the final chapter in the process Monday was anticlimactic.

Opponents scarcely showed up, and the Bloomington City Council gave unanimous approval, 9-0.

Betsy Dirksen Londrigan
Courtesy / betsydirksenlondrigan.com

There is another entry into the Democratic race for Congress in the 13th District.

Chief Heffner talks to aldermen
Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council likely won’t be voting on the proposed police civilian review board Monday as planned, after aldermen asked the police chief to share more information about current practices.

Larry Dietz speaks to crowd
Lyndsie Schlink / Illinois State University

The president of Illinois State University said Thursday's passage of a state budget is a welcome relief. Larry Dietz said more work remains to be done, but at least there is a way forward.

"It makes life a lot easier in terms of the planning. Frankly we have felt that nobody cares much about education because there has been no scheme and no plan to fund it," said Dietz.

Train in Uptown Normal
WGLT

The biggest threat to Amtrak passenger rail service is probably a proposal in Congress to eliminate long-distance routes, according to Normal’s mayor.

Ron Blemler standing on bridge
Courtesy / Town of Normal

The mayor of Normal is praising a former Parks and Recreation director for his deep impact on the town.

Normal Council Mulls Lawsuit Over Fire Trucks

Jul 6, 2017
Town Of Normal

The Normal Town Council voted Wednesday to move ahead with a potential lawsuit against a fire truck maker.

Mayor Chris Koos said Pierce Manufacturing's trucks have a 50-year warranty but suffer from corrosion.

Bruce Rauner speaks at event
G-Jun Yam / The Associated Press

The speaker of the Illinois House has scheduled a vote for Thursday to override the governor's veto of the budget package.

Pat Peterson / WGLT

Democrats plan to mount a challenge next year to Republican McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael. Nikita Richards has announced she is running as a progressive.

Connect Transit

Connect Transit expects up to a 7 percent increase in use of its Connect Mobility service next month. That's because the YWCA is shutting down its Medivan program.

The YWCA made that choice because state funding was unreliable and the program was on pace to operate at a $120,000 per year deficit.

Coliseum Naming Rights Sold for $850,000

Jun 22, 2017
Kae Mason / WGLT

The Coliseum in Bloomington will now be called the Grossinger Motors Arena. Facility manager VenuWorks has sold Grossinger Motors naming rights for the stadium. The $175,000  per year contract will last five years. Company owner Caroline Grossinger said she's excited.

"You know, investing in a facility is an enormous investment, but when we did that we did that with the thought that we're here to stay. We're here to build that community and the overall communities around us," said Grossinger.

Jon Sandage

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage is running for re-election. Sandage cited achievements in increasing drug enforcement efforts as a reason he hopes people will vote for him again.

"We have dedicated another detective to our detective division and started running narcotics cases out of our detective division. We have also added a K-9 unit to the patrol division and we are working a lot more drug interdiction details," said Sandage.

David Wilson / Flickr

The Bloomington Normal area edged under 4-percent unemployment last month. That's according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. Economists suggest the lowest possible level of unemployment is about that 3.8-percent mark.

Compared to a year ago, the twin cities had 900 more jobs in May.

Kennedy Slams Rauner For Intentional Damage To State

Jun 20, 2017
Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

One of the Democratic Candidates for Governor is accusing Republican Governor Bruce Rauner of purposefully wrecking Illinois.

Speaking recently in Normal, Chris Kennedy said Governor Rauner intentionally used the budget deadlock to target social services.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

A solid majority on the Bloomington City Council favors creating a citizen review board for police complaints.

There's less certainty about one provision community groups are pushing. Alderman Joni Painter said during a council work session it is an absolute no go for her.

Staff / WGLT

The Bloomington City Council has given a clear signal to the Library Board as it considers a new or expanded library; stay in the current location. 

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

A slew of high ranking Democrats showed up in Bloomington Normal for a letter carriers union convention at the Uptown Marriot. They included the Senate President John Cullerton, Senator Dick Durbin, and businessman and Gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy.
     
Kennedy is taking aim at the state property tax system saying it's 'legalized extortion' when politically elected assessors elevate assessments and politically connected lawyers appeal them. Kennedy said this is not just a problem in Chicago, but everywhere in the state.

WGLT

District 87 Schools in Bloomington have loaned the area vocational education program close to a quarter million dollars.

District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said it's a shame that's necessary because of the state budget deadlock. Reilly also said District 87's interest rates are climbing because the state bonds are near junk status.

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